As the Indians play their 30th of 30 meaningless Arizona exhibition games, I'm taking one last Spring Training stroll through the Inbox to gauge your thoughts and questions on the upcoming season.
The Inbox will, of course, remain a part of the regular season repertoire going forward, so keep firing away.
First off, I love the Tribe and the Inbox, all the way from Australia. I think that is pretty cool. Anyway, will Grady Sizemore finally hit .300 this season? And answer in English, please. You know I don't speak Spanish! -- Alex J., Brisbane, Australia
I'd answer in Australian, but I don't want to confuse everybody.
There is an obsession with the .300 plateau that is ingrained into our systems at birth. Sabermetricians (and there are plenty of them in the Indians' front office) scoff at this, because they view the batting average statistic as an incomplete measure of a player's offensive performance. And this is indisputable.
That being said, I think even the sabermetricians would agree that a guy labeled by some as one of the greatest all-around players of his generation -- and a guy batting in the leadoff spot, no less -- could stand to benefit from having a batting average higher than the .268 mark Sizemore posted last year.
The obvious key to Sizemore hitting .300 is that he needs to continue making strides in cutting down his strikeouts (he went from 155 in '07 to 130 last year). But he also needs to avoid pull-side ground balls. According to the Bill James Gold Mine 2009, Sizemore's average on pulled grounders dipped from .202 in '07 to .172 last year, because opposing teams have begun to pull an infield shift on him.
Sticking with Sizemore for a moment ...
I'm curious, what are Sizemore's stats for leading off the game? I hear people say he belongs somewhere else in the lineup. My argument is that, besides the first at-bat of the game, Grady rarely leads off an inning, so why not have your best hitter stand in the batter's box as many times as possible? -- Aaron M., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
You're certainly entitled to that argument, Aaron. I feel Sizemore has graduated from the leadoff role. But, at the moment, the Indians have no other viable everyday options for the leadoff spot, so it doesn't really matter how I feel.
Now, allow me to satisfy your curiosity:
Sizemore had 158 plate appearances leading off a game last season. In them, he hit .270 with nine doubles, a triple, seven homers, 17 walks, 33 strikeouts and 25 runs scored.
As far as leading off an inning other than the first is concerned, 15.4 percent (115 of 745) of Sizemore's plate appearances last season came in that scenario. In those, he hit .295 with eight doubles, one triple, five homers, 16 walks, 19 strikeouts and 23 runs.
In all other plate appearances, Sizemore hit .261 with 22 doubles, three triples, 21 homers, 78 RBIs, 65 walks, 78 strikeouts and 53 runs.
Leading off an inning, Sizemore hit .281 with a .902 OPS. With runners on, he hit .269 with an .862 OPS. With none on, he hit .268 with an .884 OPS.
Have a question about the Indians?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
As a native Clevelander now in Chicago, I thought I had heard enough Tribe-bashing to last a lifetime. And now I read that you, the Indians' beat reporter, are picking the Twins to finish first this year. How 'bout a little hometown optimism? -- Jason V., Chicago
As a kid, I don't think I ever read one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books without running into the scenario that kills the good guy. So please, by all means, don't worry about my guess that the Indians will go 88-74 and finish second in the division.
Besides, if I pick the Indians, I'm a shill. If I pick against them, I'm a traitor. Clearly, I can't win. The Indians, on the other hand, can win -- at least, in this division -- whether I pick them or not.
And by the way, if the Joe Mauer and Scott Baker injuries linger, the Twins might end up being the '08 Indians of '09, if that makes any sense.
Can you tell me what you know about Chuck Lofgren and his possibility of still making it to the Tribe this coming year, or has he really fallen off the charts with last year's performance? -- Danny Z., Willoughby, Ohio
Unfortunately, Lofgren has fallen way off the charts. He's had some family issues off the field that have no doubt been a distraction. But he's also gained about 20 pounds of bad weight over the last couple years, and it's affected his performance and durability. The left-handed Lofgren, listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, was already a big guy to begin with.
Lofgren, who went 2-6 with a 5.99 ERA last year, will open this season in the Double-A Akron rotation, and he'll probably be on a relatively short leash. He's a talented pitcher if he can pull it all together.
After reading about "Chulkamania," I think that Vinnie Chulk needs to be given a spot in the bullpen. He had a great spring, but throw the numbers out the window. Bandanas must be worn, people will be called "brother," T-shirts will be made and said T-shirts will be ripped in half with every Chulk appearance. I can rally behind this. Can you dig it?! Whatcha gonna do when Chulkamania runs wild?! -- Chris K., North Olmsted, Ohio
Personally, I'd take Chulkamania over Masamania, any day. And I think it will happen by the end of the month. Get the T-shirts ready.
I went to an Indians Spring Training game last week and picked up a program. It has all the pictures of players and coaches, but several of the coaches' and players' pictures had them in their previous teams' uniforms. Carl Pavano was wearing a Yankees cap. Kind of odd, isn't it? -- Joe, Queen Creek, Ariz.
Not if you're familiar with the concept of publication deadlines.
What do you think of Ryan Edell? Any idea whether he will get a chance sometime soon? -- Ben B., Shaker Heights, Ohio
Edell made a nice impression in camp. He'll convert from starting to relief work down at Double-A Akron at the outset this season. The organizational outlook on Edell seems to be that if he has a Major League future, it's in the 'pen. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he is a precise strike-thrower, as evidenced by the fact that he issued just 21 walks in 144 1/3 innings at Akron last year.
Do the Indians have any options left on Travis Hafner? If not, could he voluntarily go to Triple-A to work on getting his swing back in shape? -- Joe M., Lakeview, Mich.
Hafner does not have options. Speaking purely in hypothetical terms, if his swing or timing had been an absolute disaster this spring, and he agreed to go to Triple-A to get sorted out, the Indians could have put him on the disabled list and cited last fall's shoulder surgery. But the Indians feel confident enough in Hafner's progress that they will not only carry him on Opening Day but place him right in the heart of the order.
And on that note ...
Am I the only who finds Eric Wedge's handling of the lineup a little bit troubling? Hafner won't be moved down because they see progress? I have no confidence in Hafner right now. Progress or not, it's the consistency that matters. What is the rush with Hafner starting at a high-pressure batting spot? -- Kevin H., Athens, Ohio
You're not alone, Kevin. I see little reason to bat Pronk third or fourth at this juncture.
But I think Wedge is factoring in the quest for balance in the lineup. The Indians want to be careful with Shin-Soo Choo, who missed significant time in camp because of the World Baseball Classic and needs to get more at-bats to get comfortable. So if you move both Choo and Hafner down, you're getting a little too right-handed heavy in the middle of the order with the likes of Jhonny Peralta, Ben Francisco, Kelly Shoppach and/or Ryan Garko.
Do you think it would help Hafner's timing if he learned jazz flute? -- Bryan M., Lexington, N.C.
The only way Hafner's going to get his timing back is through consistent at-bats. By the time this spring is over, he'll have had about 80-85 of them, between the Cactus games and the Minors games. That's a relatively small sample for a guy who hasn't played regularly in nearly a year, so perhaps his timing will come with, well, time.
And if it does, there could be a little "ham and eggs" coming at you. Hope you got your griddles.
I know that Spring Training numbers don't matter that much, but is Cliff Lee's spring (0-3, 12.46 ERA) any cause for concern, or am I worrying over nothing? -- Chris S., Toledo, Ohio
I think Lee's earned the benefit of the doubt. Given a variety of conditions -- notably, the lack of humidity, the lack of a scouting report and the lack of incentive to bring his "A" game -- you can't place too much emphasis on Lee's numbers. He wasn't fighting for a job or coming back from an injury or anything of that nature. He was just getting his work in.
That said, I would urge Indians fans to brace themselves for an inevitable pullback from last year's dominance. The extent of that pullback remains to be seen.
And finally ... Anthony, I think you definitely found the new theme for the Inbox. I love lamp. -- Dominic H., New Philadelphia, Ohio
Are you just pointing to parts of the Inbox and saying you love them?
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.